/**/ January 2015 - Travel + Decor + DIY

GREAT WALL OF CHINA: Jinshanling-Simatai Hike

I have been planning to update my blog about The Great Wall of China long time ago as there is nothing aside from photographs in my previous 'Multiply' site (a moment of silence for multiply.com).

Today, I was browsing Instagram and saw several photos of The Great Wall and it inspired to start a 'real' blog about my trip.

Beijing is very special to me. It was my very first solo trip. Before this time (2008), I haven't met any solo backpackers, so hearing stories in our dorm type hostel room from a 20-something yr. old Scottish guy who traveled from one country to another before reaching Beijing really caught my attention. It was something that was unheard of for me.

I stayed in Peking International Youth Hostel just beside the Forbidden City (how cool was that). In the hostel, they offered a tour/hike to the Great Wall of China. With this information I planned my itinerary around this, knowing that need to block a full day just for this trip.

Trekking with A Club Adventure Great Wall Trek

It was called the Great Jinshanling-Simatai Hike. And at the time that I signed in, I kind of didn't know how great this great hike will be. We gathered in the hostel lobby early in the morning (at around 8am) for our pick-up. Our minivan did a few more stops to nearby hostels to pick-up other hikers. We were around 12 all in all and our guide said that it was a good number.

At the assembly point, our guide made it clear to us that this hike is not easy, it will be very demanding and tiring but at the same time very rewarding. He said that there are other routes to climb and experience the wall. There are apparently buses which will bring you from one tower to another and also there is an option to ride a cable car. Although these are pretty easy routes, it is the most touristy options. The trek that we will take are far from the collection of tourists and we will be able to experience both the restored and the untouched areas---hence the tag 'GREAT

The Jinshanling Hike Route

Although we were aware of the challenges ahead, we started walking up the stairs of the Great Wall with 'GREAT ENTHUSIASM'.

[blockquote source="travelchinaguide.com"]The Great Wall was originally built in the Spring and Autumn, and Warring States Periods as a defensive fortification by the three states: Yan, Zhao and Qin. It went through constant extensions and repairs in later dynasties. It began as independent walls for different states when it was first built, and did not become the "Great" wall until the Qin Dynasty. Emperor Qin Shihuang succeeded in his effort to have the walls joined together to fend off the invasions from the Huns in the north. Since then, the Wall has served as a monument of the Chinese nation throughout history.[/blockquote]

Knowing the history of the Great Wall I was overwhelmed the moment I first stepped on it. This has been standing for centuries and became a witness of a number of victories, deaths and defeats. I can just imagine the time when it was being constructed. They said aside from war, people died building the wall that's supposed to save them.


Getting Ready for the Hike

The Great Wall at Jinshanling is one of the best preserved parts of the wall with many original features still intact. It is a remote and relatively isolated section of the Great Wall and has not been repaired since 1570

Being one of the remotest sections of the wall, it was really a delight for our group to explore every bits and parts of it. I made this trek pre-selfie craze (and pre GoPro), I can just imagine how it would have been if we already have the gadgets that we are using today.

I brought my iPod (it was helpful) which gave a bit of a musical score in every step that I took and also my old Nokia phone which I don't know the reason why I had it.

Brought My Classic Ipod ---yeah IPOD


I love that although we have a guide, we can freely take our time in walking. With the scenic views surrounding us (literally from everywhere), we surely need to take all in and don't want to miss anything.

After a few kilometers, exhaustion kicked in. It was summer in China that time and we were hiking at the top of the wall at noon (I think you can already imagine that). But meeting new friends and supporting one another was another aspect that this trip became very memorable.


Moving forward, climbing 100 step stairs to reach towers after towers, I started to get a glimpse of how huge the wall is. Although debunked, there was a time when everyone thought that you can see the Great Wall of China from the moon.

When our guide told us that what we were seeing on one side is Mongolia, it felt so surreal. You can hear a lot of ooooos and wows whenever we would pass a tower and see what is awaiting for us on the next segment of the trip.

Great Wall  of ChinaTower

Great Wall  of ChinaTower

Great Wall Of China, travel bug, beijing, blog

[blockquote source="chinatravel.com"]There are three special features that sets Simatai Great Wall apart, and which surely contributed to the UNESCO decision to recognize this section of the Great Wall as a unique cultural heritage: it incorporates special style elements from the numerous other sections of the Great Wall; it has preserved, for the most part, its original Ming period refortification (this is the original work commissioned by General Qi Jiguang), both of which features make the Simatai section a uniquely representative section of the Ming period Great Wall); and the military crews that conducted the work commissioned by General Qi left their mark on the wall, quite literally, in the form of stamps that identified the individual military unit..[/blockquote]

Aside from the Jinshanling, we also climbed the Simatai section of the Great Wall of China. As mentioned at the beginning of the blog, I took this trip last 2008 and I was fortunate to experience the full hike of the Simatai Great Wall. Since 2010, it was announced that the Simatai trail will be closed for restoration and now only the west section of the wall is open for the public. Compared to the Jinshanling, Simatai has narrower and steeper trails. In 1987, it was acknowledged by UNESCO as one the World Heritage Sites, something I was excited about when I heard that (my University thesis was about Heritage Conservation ^^).

Simatai Great Wall of China

The View Inside One of The Towers

It is one of the narrowest trail of the Great Wall

After climbing around 30 watchtowers on a zigzag rough trail and almost 6 hours of hike, I was not sure if I will be excited to know that we will start our way down the wall. First, it meant that we finished exploring and it's time to say bye, and second, I think I can't walk anymore further, even if gravity will help.

But to our surprise, if we spent 6 hours hiking up, we will only spend 6 minutes going down----------BY A ZIP LINE! (and it is known as one of the must-try zip lines in the world).

Great Wall of China Zip line


Engraving the medal with my name

It was an awesome trip and for sure I will tell my grandchildren that I was able to climb 'That Famous Wall'. And to cap the whole trip, I got a medal proving that I have survived the whole hike (I paid for it, but well, I can still use it to brag).

Do you want to know how to make this trip happen? Watch this space, I will share information on HOW TO MAKE THIS TRIP HAPPEN soon.

Original Blog Post Dated: 27 May 2008

Kenneth Surat logo travel blog blogger

Crab Craze: Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine, Dusit Thani Hotel Dubai

Who would have thought that blogging about a Thai Restaurant will be my first blog for 2015, but the moment I arrived back in Dubai I received an invitation from Dusit Thani Hotel here in Dubai to try out the Crab Craze promotion of their signature Thai Restaurant, Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine. I must admit that I am not a big fan of crabs (I know I know I know, shame on me) but I love Thai food, so declining the invitation was not an option. Plus it was part of TimeOut's 5 things to do today in Dubai, so the answer was a big YES.

Crab Craze is Benjarong's offering to their patrons for the month of January (available from Sat-Thu noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm till the 31st of January 2015). Their in -house 'Celebrity Chef Status (Chef to the Royalties), Chef Narue Mol Poolkuan, prepared a selection of 6 crab inspired dishes, of course all cooked in traditional Thai flair.

I have been to Bangkok and Phuket, and Thai cuisine became one of my favorite dishes in the world. Trying to mask my jetlagged-self, I ran to Dusit Thani Hotel along Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road dreaming of all of my Thai favorites.

[caption id="attachment_2418" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food ifoodblog Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2419" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog A very rich and intimate interior decor[/caption]

The decor of the whole restaurant is what I have expected it to be. Not only their chef brought the 'Royal' tag in their name, but also their decor will bring you to a very opulent Thai Palace Hall. I love how rich but intimate it looks.

[caption id="attachment_2420" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Celebrity + Royal Chef: Chef Narue Mol Poolkuan[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2431" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Mieng Kam[/caption]

As I was ushered to my seat (in a table full of my blogger friends), I was served with this little canapé-ish dish called Mieng Kam (I think it is their way to prepare you on what's going to happen). I gobbled it in one bite, rolled the leaf and it just vanished into thin air ( on the way to my belly). As expected, it was a mixture of different spices topped with shredded coconut, all on top of a leaf which I forgot to ask what kind ( if you dine here, please pass the information to me). Plus the fresh coconut juice as a welcome drink was no doubt was very refreshing.

[caption id="attachment_2430" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Pu- Ja[/caption]

After a few minutes of playing catching up with my blogger friends and Dan elle who is the marketing manager of Dusit, we were then served with 2 appetizer dishes. First was the Pu-Ja ( Deep fried crab meat and minced chicken in a crab shell with sweet chili sauce - 35 AED) which is one of my favorites in the selections. If you like meat balls, for sure you will like it. If you like fried things dipped in sweet chili sauce, for sure you will like this as well...ME I LIKE BOTH!  For those who are lazy to open/crack a crab just to get the meat, this is a sure pick.

[caption id="attachment_2429" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Som Tum Punim[/caption]

Another dish we were presented for an appetizer is the Som Tum Punim (Spicy green papaya salad with crispy soft shell crab -45 AED). I am not a fan of green papaya (we have dish in the Philippines called 'Atsara' and I am not a fan) but with my new love for discovering/rediscovering food I found that things that I normally don't eat are fairly good (yesterday I discovered that Kimchi is actually tolerable). So I took a first bite, and whoala--I loved it!. I think among the bloggers in the table, I ate the most portion of Som Tum Punim. They said that it tasted like Atsara with soft shelled crabs of course. Now I need give Atsara another try.

After all the appetizers, the host asked us if we are ready for the main courses, with our tummy almost full, it was surprising that we answered YES immediately.

After a few moments, tray loads of aromatic dishes arrived. We have a total of five main dishes to try (one of it is a bonus and crab-less....try to guess which one). We were served:

Gaeng Som Puma Normai Dong - 70 AED

Hot and sour curry with blue crab and sour bamboo shoot

Pu Pad Prig Gaeng - 75 AED

Stir fried Alaska King Crab with red curry paste, string beans and sweet basil.

Sen Jun Pad Pu - 35 AED

Fried rice noodles with crab meat

Lon Pu-Kem - 65 AED

Salted crab in coconut cream dip served in vegetables.

Green curry chicken. (priceless :P) 

[caption id="attachment_2427" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Gaeng Som Puma Normai Dong[/caption]

The first main course I tried was the Gaeng Som Puma Normai Dong. It reminded me to the Hot and Sour soup that I always ordered in an Indian-Chinese restaurant in Satwa but this one has a lot more bamboo shoot. I really don't like the smell of bamboo shoot but I find the taste interesting. If only I can pinch my nose while eating it. I can say this is tasty but not my favorite. Maybe lesser bamboo shoot next time (but apparently it is really an Asian thing, so I am sure my request will never see the light of day).

[caption id="attachment_2426" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Pud Pad Prig Gaeng[/caption]

Most of the bloggers that I shared table with told me that the Pu Pad Prig Gaeng was their favorite. It was tasty and you can find every flavor that you are looking for in a Thai Cuisine in this dish. I love the sauce but I dread getting the meat in those crab legs (haha, but for sure I am the exemption as I know most of you are not as lazy as I am in cracking those legs open---and a lot of people find pleasure in doing so). If you are a crab lover, this dish should be on your table.

[caption id="attachment_2425" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Sen Jun Pad Pu[/caption]

Now, it will not be an Asian party without noodles on the table! Am I correct or AM  I  C O R R E C T? This, I must say is one of my favorite dish. It reminded me of a milder version of Pad Thai. Lately I don't eat white rice that much (I am controlling my carb intakes..LOL), but noodles is always an exception. I discovered a Korean noodle soup yesterday, I can't wait to share the details with you guys! Ok back to Sen Jun Pad Pu, As I said, this became one of my favorite dishes and it will be shameful if I will not going to recommend this to you.

[caption id="attachment_2424" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Lon Pu-Kem[/caption]

The last dish from the Crab Craze menu is the Lon Pu-Kem. It is a very simple dish (the way it looks like) but I know it was carefully mastered to achieve perfection (Naks! :P). So if I will rank all the dishes I tried, this simple dish is number one on my list. I don't know if it's the coconut cream in the sauce, but something about that sauce made everything perfect. Let's not disregard the perfectly steamed vegetables as well. Crunchy and sweet!

[caption id="attachment_2423" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Green Curry Chicken[/caption]

Although the Lon Pu-Kem was the last dish in the Crab Craze menu, it was not the last main course that we tried. We were also served a Green Curry Chicken. Something that Thais should be proud of. I tried it once in Phuket, and since then, everytime I visit any Thai Restaurant, I always order this. If you are a fan of curry+coconut cream, this is a perfect dish for you.

[caption id="attachment_2422" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine Dusit Dubai Mydubai Travel blogger food foodblog Assorted Benjarong Deserts[/caption]

Lastly, no meal will ever end without a good dessert. So we were given a selection of special desserts from their menu and I was curious with the 'Assorted Benjaron Desserts'. You can also say that I was too lazy to think so I want to try a lot of varieties. My other blogger friends ordered the famous sticky rice with ripe mango, while another one ordered the water chestnut with coconut milk. When my dessert plate arrived, it was a mix of colorful mini dessert trinkets. These are Woon Groop, Ja Mongkut, Foi-Thong, Mieng Kam and Med- Kawoon. I really don't know what are the ingredients for each but it was nice to taste each one of them. I was told that the assorted desserts are not fixed with only these selections, the mix changes daily. I think it is a nice surprise at the end of your meal.

All in all I really enjoyed dining here. The interior decoration is really intimate and I can see myself dragging my friends and enjoying a casual talk and catching up. It can be over the Crab Craze Menu but also over their regular offerings. Aside from Dusit Thani Hotel's accessible location, Benjarong has a beautiful view of both  Downtown Dubai on one side and the busy Sheikh Zayed road on the other. This place is truly one of the best places you can bring your loved ones or visitors to enjoy a lovely dinner with.


Crab Craze is only available throughout the month of January

To know more about Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine check out the information below:

Location: Benjarong Royal Thai Cuisine, 24th floor, Dusit Thani Dubai , 133, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, UAE

Available from: Sat-Thu noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm


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Kenneth Surat logo travel blog blogger